Tender hospital moment brings out the smiles




You might have seen the photos of a Riley cardiologist sewing up a stuffed monkey last week. Here’s a closer look at the doctor, the monkey and the little girl whose smile says it all.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Talk about putting a smile on your face …

The photos we shared last week of Dr. Mark Hoyer dressed in scrubs and intently sewing up a stuffed monkey for a patient had people positively grinning.

Dr. Mark Hoyer

So we decided to peel back the mask hiding not only Dr. Hoyer’s face and the monkey’s mug, but also reveal the patient whose request sparked the tender moment.

Lexie McGrath, 10, has a heart condition and has been a patient of Dr. Hoyer’s for several years. The fifth-grader was at Riley Hospital for Children for a heart catheterization procedure last month, and she was a tad anxious. Who wouldn’t be?

She had brought along her old pal, Mississippi the monkey, for moral support, along with her parents, Julie and Susan McGrath.

Dr. Mark Hoyer

Why the name Mississippi? When she was little, Lexie used to say “Sippy” all the time, Julie explained. She wanted her monkey to be a girl, so somehow she put the two together to come up with Mississippi.

As she waited to go back for the heart cath, Lexie fiddled with the monkey and a string came loose, leaving Mississippi with a droopy face.

“She got so upset when the thread came undone,” Julie said.

But Cath Lab nurse Lisa Bauermeister took note of the situation and asked Dr. Hoyer if he might have time to see another “patient” that morning. The cardiologist was all in.

While Lexie was in recovery from the outpatient procedure, Dr. Hoyer got to work on Mississippi with a pair of surgical scissors and a sewing kit he keeps at the office.

Dr. Mark Hoyer

“There wasn’t much room to work on the face,” Dr. Hoyer said with a laugh. “But we got it done and it was fun.”

And Bauermeister had the good sense to snap a couple photos of the doctor with his floppy patient.

It’s not the first time he’s tried to put a smile on a patient’s face, but this just might have been the first surgical repair job to a stuffed animal, said the father of three children and grandfather of seven (soon to be eight).

“Obviously, it’s a privilege to take care of these kids and hopefully do right by them,” said the physician, who has been a Riley cardiologist since 2000. “That’s what they deserve.”

Dr. Mark Hoyer

Lexie’s reaction when she woke up to a smiling monkey was precious, her mom said.

“She was so happy. When we saw it, we just got all teary,” Julie said. “Who would have gone that extra step? We didn’t expect it, but to see that he had taken the time to do that just showed the extraordinary ways that he takes care of his patients. He’s an extremely kind man.”

And he’s not alone, she said.

“Everybody at Riley is amazing.”

Dr. Hoyer, who doesn’t have a Facebook or Instagram account, was surprised to hear about the hubbub his photo caused on the social media platforms.

“It’s a humbling feeling,” he said.

Dr. Mark Hoyer

We thought it only right to share with him just a handful of the 140-plus comments on the Riley Children’s Facebook page:

“What a wonderful doctor and person! God bless him!”

“A very big virtual hug to you Dr. Hoyer. The kindness you showed is a true blessing.”

“Dr. Mark Hoyer is one of a kind! He’s a superhero in and out of the operating room. Thanks for all you do for the kids at Riley.”

“What a wonderful story! God bless our healthcare workers!”

“Another reason to love Riley Hospital! It’s amazing how gentle, loving and thoughtful these people are. Been through a lot with a child of my own there and now grandbabies going there.”

“This makes my heart smile.”

Not one to seek the limelight, Dr. Hoyer says there is plenty of praise to go around.

“We have a great nursing team and an environment that is really like a family,” he said. “We have a great working relationship, and we have fun.”

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org

Has a team member at Riley done something special for you or your child? We’d like to hear about it. Drop a note in the comments or email mgilmer1@iuhealth.org.

Related Doctor

Mark H. Hoyer, MD, FACC, FSCAI

Mark H. Hoyer, MD, FACC, FSCAI

Pediatric Cardiology